GMA VOWS TO KEEP ABU SAYYAF 'ON THE RUN'

Malacanang, July 11, 2003 By Marichu Villanueva (Star) Nowhere to hide.

The fact that the military detected the presence of Abu Sayyaf leader Khaddafi Janjalani and the remnants of the terror group showed that their movements were being monitored, President Arroyo pointed out yesterday.

"We shall keep them on the run until they are all accounted for," she said.

In a briefly worded statement, Mrs. Arroyo reassured the public that the police and military will not relent on their drive to hunt down the Abu Sayyaf and bring them to justice.

"Terrorists will be hunted down wherever they are and be brought to justice," the President said. "We shall not give them any quarter or opportunity to rest or plan out their evil deeds."

Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Roy Kyamko had reported Janjalani and his heavily armed men landed near the shore of Palimbang town and were spotted by villagers.

Kyamko said troops found three motor boats used by the bandits to cross the sea from the Zamboanga Peninsula and escape a military dragnet there.

Armed Forces vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia added the mayor of Palimbang town alerted the authorities that Janjalani had landed there last weekend.

The tip off apparently came too late for government forces who are now scouring the area with Navy vessels and helicopters to track the bandits.

Maj. Gen. Generoso Senga, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said two battalions of Army rangers, backed by militiamen and civilian volunteers led by local officials, have been deployed in the coastal areas of Palimbang.

Senga said they have enlisted the help of Muslim religious leaders and barangay officials in the town in tracking down Janjalani and his men.

The municipal peace and order council, chaired by Mayor Samrod Mamansual, enacted Wednesday a resolution calling on the Armed Forces to drive out the Abu Sayyaf from their town.

Since yesterday, Mamansual, a former commander of the Moro National Liberation Front, and his armed followers have been helping the military locate Janjalani and his men.

Sources from the Army’s intelligence community and local religious leaders also disclosed two unnamed leaders of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) met with Janjalani and his group in Sitio Nalian, Barangay Libua of the town.

"After disembarking from their pump boats, they (Abu Sayyaf gunmen) marched right away towards a hinterland where the MILF has a camp," one of the sources said.

Mrs. Arroyo underscored the need for the people’s support and cooperation to help government forces capture the bandits.

"Our communities must be vigilant. Our people must be the eyes and ears to help us track down the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf," she said.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said yesterday Mrs. Arroyo’s directive of a "relentless pursuit" operation against the bandits was not an indication of her displeasure for the military’s failure to ensnare Janjalani.– With John Unson, Mike Frialde, John Paul Jubel


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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